Fear and overwhelm. Two things which stop us creatively from moving forward. Over the past month I have had both. Rejections, uncertainties and too many things happening all at once became a deluge which has threatened to overwhelm me. And yet this week I also had some good news which has helped reframe the past and imagine a new future.
My exhibition proposal Deluge has been accepted by M-Arts Gallery in Murwillumbah and I will finally be able to show the work which came out of the cataclysmic big flood of March 2017. It has taken me nearly two years to come to terms with the flood and relocation of my art studio. A major part of this healing journey has been creating three suites of artworks which form Deluge. These will be exhibited at the M-Arts upstairs long gallery in March 2019 to coincide with the second year anniversary of the flood.
Deluge is described in the dictionary as a great flood of water, an inundation, a drenching rain, a downpour and anything that overwhelms like a flood. While this series of artworks is primarily about the flood and the traces of memory that remain in its aftermath, it is also about my journey to survive this adversity and move forward into a new creative future.
I have been collaging on a daily basis since 2010 and it has become my default art practice. Instead of feeling this was “just” how I worked with paper, I have embraced it as a valid art form. I think back to that time nine months after the flood when I first began working with my flood affected paper survivors. I laid them out in my relocated home studio and placed a few against each other, randomly connecting colours and mud spatters. When layered together there was a dialogue as each piece ‘talked’, wanting to tell their story. I got out my needle and began to stitch them together
My friend Julie Barratt came to visit during January 2018 and urged me to keep going with this work. We talked about the beauty of the papers, how the silt became both the printing plate and the ink. When I returned from three months of travel and my art residency in Lasalle France, I realised my hands had automatically taken collage to another level. I had created a huge artist book weaving torn cardboard into metal screens and interwoven my sound and visual impressions of the town. Weaving paper became my new collage technique. When I tried to make new artworks about my travels, I realised there were still traces of memory about the flood which I needed to acknowledge. The Trace series of small, woven and stitched papers underpinned my personal story.
As I stitched and wove I did not believe that anyone would be interested in my story. It was too dark, too filled with mud and mess and tears. Artworks in the SILT series were rejected from exhibition entries, I felt my stories would not be told. I then brought out the last of the papers affected from the flood. These were posters from my travels in Mexico. As I laid these out I realised they spoke of the resilience of the feminine spirit, Las Mujeres. I was a part of an international movement of women with their hands upraised saying listen to our voices! We are here! We will not be silenced!
Through all this doubt my artist friends have rallied around. I am so pleased to invite them and you all to my exhibition Deluge which will be opened by Julie Barratt who was there at the beginning of this story and who was my co-curator when we exhibited A Book About Death Australia at the Tweed Regional Gallery in 2013. Death and life, survival through adversity. These are my stories and I’m proud to share them.